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Last Updated on March 24, 2020

12 Bad Leadership Qualities to Be Aware of

12 Bad Leadership Qualities to Be Aware of

Have you ever heard of the “Peter Principle”? It’s the idea that in any business people get promoted based on their success at the job they’re currently in. This advancement only stops when they reach a level where they don’t excel anymore. They have gone beyond the place where they were competent, thus getting stuck at their level of incompetence.

This principle is based on the notion that success in one area does not necessarily correspond to success in other areas. This is how bad leaders are made, getting promoted to a position they just aren’t qualified for.

For example, just because someone is a good salesperson doesn’t mean that they can lead a sales team.

Take a minute to think about the best boss you’ve had and compare that to the worst boss you’ve had. Can you remember what it felt like to work for each? You can likely remember the feeling of working for each clearly. But can you identify the qualities that made the leader good or bad?

It’s important to be aware of bad leadership qualities when you see them as this will help you define your relationship with your own boss and improve your personal leadership qualities.

12 Bad Leadership Qualities

These are 12 bad leadership qualities to be aware of.

1. Conflict Avoidance

Whether it’s between department heads or team members, dealing directly and decisively with conflict is essential. By not dealing with it or just hoping that it will go away, a bad leader is just letting the situation fester. They will still have to deal with it, but by the time they do it will have morphed from a small conflict into a serious situation.

Good leaders know that they can’t make everyone happy and that making these hard decisions is in their job description.

2. Lack of Flexibility

Long gone are the days when you could adopt one management style for your whole career. Good leaders know when and how to adapt their management style. They also know their team members and understand how to motivate them individually. In today’s world, nothing says bad leadership more than an unwavering authoritarian boss.

3. My-Way-or-the-Highway Mindset

People like to think that they came into their leadership position due to their knowledge and expertise. While that may be true, it can lead to arrogance and inflexibility. Part of being a leader is inspiring the team to greater things. Unless they have the autonomy to work out problems on their own and, yes, even make mistakes, they won’t stay motivated.

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4. Rationalizing Poor or Unethical Conduct

It doesn’t matter how smart or talented a leader is; if they rationalize bad behavior from themselves or others, they are doomed to failure. It’s an easy thing to fall into, but rationalizing unethical business practices because of some short-term gain always catches up with them.

5. Lack of a Track Record

Success breeds success. While past performance isn’t a guarantee of future success, the fact is that hiring someone who has a proven track record of success is less risky than hiring someone who doesn’t.

6. Inability to Create or Conform to a Company Culture

Creating the right company culture serves to empower and uplift teams. It has company-wide implications, and if not embraced and utilized by the leader, there will be a negative effect on ROI.[1]

7. Poor Communication Skills

Leaders need to be able to effectively communicate in a variety of ways and with a variety of people. A person with poor communication skills cannot effectively share the company’s goals, mission or strategy to achieve them. Being able to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, is a must for any leader.

8. Self-Centered

Besides being miserable to be around, self-centered people make poor leaders. If a leader is self-centered, they will take credit for the successes and place blame for the failures. Eventually this leads to staff becoming demoralized and the business failing.

The Rotary Club has a saying: Service Above Self, coined by Rotarian Arthur Frederick Sheldon. This means that “only the science of right conduct toward others pays. Business is the science of human services. He profits most who serves his fellows best.”[2]

9. Unpredictability

This can take many forms. A team needs to be able to predict what the boss wants in order to have any kind of autonomy doing their jobs. Without it, they will be forced into a system of micromanagement. Having to okay every decision for fear of reprisal is a failure of leadership.

Additionally, employees need a sense of stability in order to feel safe. If employees know that the boss’s reaction to bad news is dependent on their mood that day, it can stop the flow of vital information. It also means that they will constantly be walking on eggshells around that boss.

Finally, people who say or do things without thinking first make very poor leaders. The bottom line is that sending mixed signals is one of the bad leadership qualities that will doom a business to failure.

10. Not Forward-Thinking

Being satisfied with the status quo is never a good thing for a leader. It signifies that they are more concerned about surviving than growing and thriving. Good leaders are forward-thinking and keep their businesses at “the tip of the spear” of change and innovation.

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11. Know-It-All

Good leaders know just how much they don’t know. They have no desire to be right or even be the smartest person in the room. Good leaders know who and when to ask for advice.

Know-it-alls, on the other hand, rarely take advice or even input from anyone other than a superior. They do not take advantage of the huge amount knowledge and talent that’s available to them.

12. Not Focused on the Customer

A leader must be focused on the customer. They need to know exactly who they are serving, what their needs are, and how the company can work to fulfill those needs better than the competition. If the leader in your organization isn’t focusing on the customer, you can be assured that there’s a leader from a competitor that is.

Why People Stay With a Bad Leader

When you have a bad leader, the simple solution is to just quit and find another job, but it’s rarely as simple as that. People stay in stressful and unhealthy relationships all the time; the work relationship is no different. But why do they stay?

There are a myriad of reasons people stay working for a bad leader, but they are mostly tied to basic human psychological dynamics.

Feeling Emotionally Drained

When dealing with a high stress situation day after day, it becomes emotionally draining. They may want to find something else, but they just don’t have the energy to do it. It’s also not a good idea to quit a job without having another job lined up. However, it’s hard to get another job lined up when you’re emotionally exhausted all the time. Stressful work environments can also make it hard to envision more positive situations that may be out there.

Loss Aversion

Not wanting to give up something that you already have is another reason people stay with a bad leader. The thinking goes like this: “He/She is a lousy boss, but this might be the best job I can get.” In psychological terms, it’s a concept called “Loss Aversion.”

Love for the Job

Some people stay because they really love the job even though they hate the boss. The work is highly meaningful to them and gives them a sense of purpose and emotional satisfaction.

Hope of Change

Finally, there’s always that hope that the boss might change their ways. It rarely happens, but there’s still hope.

How to Deal with Bad Leadership

If quitting is not an option, there are some strategies you can use to deal more effectively with a bad leader. While the exact strategy to use depends on the specific bad leadership qualities of your boss, we do have some good general recommendations.

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Identify the Motivation

The first thing you want to do is observe. You want to identify your boss’s triggers and motivations. What is important to them?

Keep in mind that they may not be aware of their own motivations, but if you are observant, you can make reasonable assumptions on the following:

  • Are they worried about how they look to their colleagues or superiors?
  • What (if anything) seems to make them happy?
  • How do they measure success in themselves and others?
  • What do they care about most?
  • What frightens them?

By understanding a leader’s personality, motivations, and triggers, you can frame your interactions accordingly. For example, when presenting an idea to a leader who is a know-it-all, try to give them a way to “share” in the credit.

Instead of saying, “I think we could save money by changing how we do X and instead do Y,” you’d be better off phrasing it this way: “Hey, I’d like to get your opinion. Do you think we could save money on X if we change it to Y?” This will give them an out, and in their mind, they can take (at least partial) credit for the idea, so it is more likely to be implemented.

Don’t Sabotage

It can be tempting to try to “even the score” by working slowly, taking extra days off, or abusing mental health and sick days. However, all that does is make the situation worse. You need to have good working relationships with your coworkers as well as other leaders within the company.

You also don’t want to let it affect your work. Keep the quality of your work high. Unless you have another job lined up, you don’t want to lose this one.

Anticipate

Try to anticipate the leader’s wants, needs, and expectations. By doing this, you can stay one step ahead of them. This is especially helpful if your boss is a micromanager.[3]

Clarify

Good communication skills are a must for any organization. Unfortunately, one of the most common bad leadership qualities is poor communication skills. Instead of relying on a leader with poor communication skills, you need to take control of the situation.

There’s a tried and true method to when trying to get clarity from someone. Simply repeat back to them what they said and have them listen. “Okay, this is what I heard you say. Is that what you meant?”

If it is, you have achieved clarity; if it isn’t, it gives them a chance to explain further.

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This technique works well when you are assigned a new or different task as well as when handling disputes with the boss.

Take Care of Yourself

Poor leadership and bad bosses make for a stressful and exhausting workday. Don’t let it damage your physical or mental health. Do the following to take care of yourself.

Get Plenty of Exercise

One of the best ways to reduce stress is through exercise. It not only reduces stress, but it also keeps you healthy and away from the more harmful ways to reduce stress, like drinking, smoking, and drug use.

Keep a Healthy Diet

A high-stress work environment will take its own toll on your body. Stress is a known factor in both heart disease and stroke. Minimize these risks by maintaining a healthy diet.

Have a Support System

Having someone you can talk to is important any time you are in a stressful situation. Being able to vent and talk with someone always helps. You can bounce ideas off them, and they may give you advice or a perspective you haven’t considered.

Get Enough Sleep

The connection between quality sleep and heart health has been well established for some time now. However, our understanding of the interaction or cause and effect has evolved over time. It is now believed that poor quality sleep contributes to things like coronary artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.[4]

Conclusion

In an ideal world, we would all have good, competent leaders and managers, ones who uplifted us, helped us succeed, and made us feel valued. However, studies have shown that “75% of Americans say their boss is the most stressful part of their workday.”[5]

It’s obvious, then, that this is a very common phenomenon and one that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Your best bet is to learn how to deal effectively with bad leadership until either you or they leave. Regardless, always keep in mind that a job is never worth your health or family relationships.

Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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